It was hard to tell who was more excited.

Upper Dublin's Mike Palmisano was excited about being interviewed by The Inquirer. I was excited about having the opportunity to chat with one of my favorite track athletes.

You see, Palmisano is the epitome of what I call the perfect high school athlete.

He's not the fastest, strongest, or even the most-heralded athlete. But Palmisano can never be counted out. Guys like this Princeton University recruit will themselves to victories. No matter how big the obstacle in front of him, the 18-year-old often ends up on the medal stand.

And that is what is impressive.

So there we sat on a bench at the Upper Dublin baseball field. A nervous yet polite and well-spoken student-athlete and a talkative track and field enthusiast who just happens to be a sportswriter.

On this day, the topic went back and forth from Palmisano's ironman-like PIAA state track and field meet performance to his sensational Penn Relays effort. Both were among the most impressive accomplishments of the season - and for different reasons.

By anchoring the Cardinals' winning distance medley in April's Penn Relays, Palmisano showed he can run with the nation's premier distance runners. His state-meet performance last weekend displayed his power, strength, and determination.

He always possessed those attributes. Just as he has always been a standout distance runner.

"I just wasn't winning any big races," Palmisano said.

As a result, his accomplishments often went unnoticed. Unnoticed until the Penn Relays.

West Windsor-Plainsboro North was heavily favored to win the Championship of America boys' distance medley race. But that New Jersey team became an afterthought as the Cardinals' took away the Northern Knights' shining moment.

Upper Dublin's quartet of Matt Lorenzo, Chris Melton, Paul Reilly and Palmisano won the race in 10 minutes, 8.46 seconds. The favorite was second in 10:11.28.

Reilly gave Palmisano the baton in second place, behind West Windsor-Plainsboro North.

At that point, one would have assumed the favorites had the race locked up. The Northern Knights had the nation's top indoor time in the event. Moreover, the final leg of the race covered 1,600 meters, anchor Jim Rosa's specialty.

The sophomore's indoor time of 4:13.12 ranked 13th nationally, according to Dyestat.com. Palmisano, on the other hand, had specialized in the 800 meters.

But that was hard to tell.

Palmisano pulled even with Rosa with 200 meters to go. Then he pulled away on the final turn. He ran a 4:14.6 split.

"I went into the distance medley with a goal to just get a personal record in the mile," Palmisano said. "That was great to be able to get him. That showed that I was experienced and mentally tough."

His mental toughness was also on display at the PIAA Class AAA portion of the state meet.

Despite being advised against it by a Wissahickon coach, Palmisano competed in the 800, 1,600, and on Upper Dublin's 4x800 relay team.

"I was confident in myself," he said of attempting the triple. "I knew I was able to focus on one race at a time."

In the process, he was a major reason why his team finished third in the Class AAA boys' team standings. The senior had a hand in 24 of the Cardinals' 28 total points.

He won the 1,600 in 4:13.93. He also finished third in the 800 with a 1:54.85. And the standout ran an anchor leg of 1:51 on Upper Dublin's second-place 4x800 relay team that finished in 7:40.04. Palmisano received the baton in fourth place.

Just as he did an hour earlier in the 4x800, Palmisano outkicked runners in the 1,600.

He was in fifth place at the bell lap but ran a 59-second final lap, taking the lead on the final turn en route to winning the race.

"I was really happy," Palmisano said. "I was more impressed that I ran the 4x800 and was still able to come back and win the mile."

He wasn't the only one impressed with that performance. To me, it was one of the highlights of the season. Another highlight was chatting about track with one of my favorite runners.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com.

Read his columns at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/keith_pompey/.